Spina Bifida: Causes, Symptoms, Types, and Treatment

What is Spina Bifida?

Spina Bifida is a condition of the spinal column that occurs at birth. It is a neural tube defect. In this condition, the spine and spinal cord do not form properly, causing a defect and swelling in the back of the newborn through which spinal cord or nerves herniate out. 

Spina Bifida may vary from mild to severe and this depends on the size and location of the opening in the spine and if there is any damage caused to the nerves or spinal cord.

What is the prevalence of Spina Bifida in India? 

Among the neural tube defects, spina bifida is the second highest. In India, spina bifida occurs at 1.9 per 1000 births. 

What are the causes of Spina Bifida?

Spina bifida causes are not known but genetics and environment may play a role in it. Deficiency of Folic acid in females during conception and pregnancy has been linked with the occurrence of spina bifida

What are the types of Spina Bifida?

There are three common types, namely:

1. Spina Bifida Oculta: A small gap is found in the spine but the nerves and spinal cord are normal.

2. Myelomeningocele: A sac is formed at the back of the baby where a portion of the spinal cord and nerves are located and damaged. 

3. Meningocele: A sac is formed at the back of the baby where there is some nerve damage only. 

How is Spina Bifida diagnosed?

Spina Bifida is usually diagnosed during pregnancy. Some tests are done during pregnancy such as:

AFP (alpha-fetoprotein): A blood sample is taken from the mother.

Ultrasound: Ultrasound of the baby is done to diagnose spina bifida. It is usually diagnosed in the second trimester of pregnancy.

Amniocentesis: A sample of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby is taken. 

Sometimes Spina Bifida is diagnosed after the baby is born. In such cases, imaging such as X-ray, CT scan, or MRI is performed. 

What is Spina Bifida Treatment?

The treatment varies from person to person depending on the type. 

Babies with myelomeningocele and meningocele require more treatment than those with spina bifida occulta. 

In myelomeningocele, surgery is done to close the defect after the birth of the baby.  

Some babies born with spina bifida get hydrocephalus (water inside the brain). In this case, a shunt (a small hollow tube) is placed to help drain out the fluid. 

Some babies with spina bifida will have tethered spinal cord (the spinal cord is attached to the spinal canal). In this situation, surgery is needed.

Consult the best neurosurgeon for spina bifida treatment in Delhi. Spina bifida treatment depends on the severity of the condition. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is there a way to prevent it?

During your pregnancy, make sure you take enough folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. If you had a previous pregnancy with spina bifida, you will need to increase your folic acid intake. 

2. What is the prognosis of spina bifida?

The prognosis depends on the type and severity of spina bifida. Some children with this condition have normal lives. Some children may have mild to severe or no disability including weakness of legs, problems of urine and stool control, and spinal problems.

3. Are there any complications associated with spina bifida?

The complications may vary from mild to severe mental or physical disabilities. Abnormal sensation and paralysis are possible complications. Other possible complications include learning disability, infection such as meningitis (infection of the meninges), skin problem, gastrointestinal problem, latex allergies, and depression. 

Children with spina bifida cannot control their bladder or bowel. Children with spina bifida may lose their sensation so when they get a cut or bruise, they may not feel it. For reasons not fully understood, most children with spina bifida are allergic to latex or natural rubber - so, make sure pacifiers and rubber nipples are not given to babies with this condition. 

4. What type of doctor should I visit for my baby with this condition?

Babies with spina bifida need to be seen by a pediatric neurosurgeon, orthopedist, and urologist




Dr. Anurag Saxena

HOD & Consultant - Department Of Neurosurgery

Manipal Hospitals, Dwarka, Delhi

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